Tips And Treats
Gemstones Buying Tips
Prized for centuries for their beauty, and often used as currency, gemstones hold ageless appeal. Modern treating techniques enhance their look and improve their durability.
Whatever your favorites - rubies, sapphires, emeralds or others - find a good jeweler to buy from. Shopping for gemstones and gemstone jewelry can be confusing. Prices are sometimes very different for jewelry that appears to be very similar. Some of the statements in ads are confusing, too, because gemstones are called natural, genuine, synthetic, simulated, treated or a combination of those terms.
It's important for any shopper to understand gemstone terms before buying any type of gemstone jewelry.
Last Updated - 6th October 2005
What Are Natural Gemstones?
Gems brought to us courtesy of nature, with no interference from humans. By the time they appear in our jewelry they've been cut or polished, but they've not been treated or altered in other ways.
What Are Genuine Gemstones?
Natural gemstones are genuine gems. So are other stones created by nature, even the gems that have been treated to enhance their appearance. They're "real," even if they've been altered in some way.
Not All Natural or Genuine Gemstones are Valuable
Don't be fooled into thinking that all natural or genuine gemstones are desirable or valuable. Small to large stones of poor quality are common and often considered mining castaways. Get the facts about a specific gem before you pay a premium price for it.
Gemstone and Jewelry Pricing
Like any other industry, supply and demand drives gemstone prices up and down.
E.g.. Natural rubies of high quality are rare and demand for them is always high.
Similarly colored red garnets are gorgeous, but they aren't rare. A flawless natural garnet costs a great deal less than a ruby of similar quality.
How Synthetic Gemstones Differ
A synthetic gemstone shares a natural stone's physical, chemical and optical qualities. The difference? Synthetics are created in a laboratory. It's kind of like making a high tech batch of cookieswe know the ingredients and we know how long to cook them.
There are synthetic versions of nearly all popular gemstones and many of them have been around for a long time. Older synthetics were fairly simple for gemologists to detectthey were often too perfect. Some modern synthetic gemstones are more difficult to identify, but an experienced jeweler or gemologist can usually help.
- A large percentage of gemstones are treated to enhance their appearance. The enhancements allow jewelry manufacturers to improve the appearance of stones that consumers wouldn't otherwise purchase. Remember, treated gemstones are genuine, but they are no longer considered natural.
- Treatments allow more of us to own gemstones. If naturally "perfect" stones were the only ones available, most of us couldn't afford them.
- Buy pricey gemstones labeled natural only from an experienced jeweler you trust. Ask for verification from a respected laboratory before paying top dollar for any stone.
- Shopping for a natural gemstone is a lot easier if it's a color you're after and not a specific stone. Gemstones that aren't usually treated include garnets, peridot, hematite, alexandrite and moonstone.
- Read as much as you can about gemstones and jewelry, then study ads carefully to compare prices. Ask for details on all components, not just the gemstones. Go shopping so that you can compare jewelry and gemstones side-by-side.
- Work with a jeweler whose character you trust. Since virtually all gemstones are treated, the opportunity for deception is great; you want to be dealing with someone you can depend on. If something about the experience is off-putting, leave.
- Learn about lab-created and treated stones. Ask jewelers if a naturally mined stone has been treated, heated, bleached, coated or dyed to improve the look or durability. Some treatments can weaken a stone and lower its price.
- Keep your eyes open for imitations, generally made of glass or plastic. Jewelers will tell you what's what.
- Apply the four Cs to buying gemstones just as you would to purchasing diamonds. Gemstones, however, don't carry letter grades for guidance; a trustworthy jeweler will show you how to be discerning.
- Shop around. Numerous companies operate in the field of colored gems, so prices fluctuate far more widely than those of diamonds, and it pays to watch them over time. A one-carat ruby, for instance, can vary enormously in cost and may be just as expensive as a diamond. And gems over three carats in size leap up in price because they are rare. Color shade and saturation (whether the color is dull or intense) also greatly affects price. Clarity is also important (the gem should have few flaws or inclusions), as is a perfect, light-reflecting faceted cut.
- Check the store's return and refund policy before finalizing your purchase.
- Make sure your receipt details all the stone's specifications including its weight and size. Ask for a grading report, and check that the receipt specifies whether the stone is a natural gem, lab-created or treated stone.
- Jewelry that includes quality synthetic gems can be just as beautiful as jewelry made with natural stonesand there are some great buys out there.
- Good synthetics aren't necessarily inexpensive, but should cost much less than natural stones of similar quality.
- Since synthetics do have the same composition as natural stones, they could technically be called "genuine," but that would be a deceptive label if used alone. A stone's origins should always be disclosed.
- Question the ethics of anyone who knowingly omits origin information, and the expertise of anyone who cannot provide it.
- The Federal Trade Commission requires jewelers to inform customers if a gemstone has been lab created or treated. Find out if the treatments is permanent or the stone requires special care.
- What to look for:
- Natural versus lab-created or imitation Gems
- The four Cs (cut, color, clarity, carat)
- Detailed receipt
Disclaimer: The Gemstones Buying Tips / Information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Tips And Treats . com and/or its partners.
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